Fusarium palustre is an endophyte/pathogen of Spartina alterniflora, a saltmarsh grass native to North America that has been associated in the USA with a saltmarsh decline known as Sudden Vegetation Dieback (SVD). Since the intentional introduction of S. alterniflora to stabilize mud flats on Chongming Island, Shanghai, China, S. alterniflora has become invasive, but shows no symptoms of dieback even though F. palustre can be isolated from the plant. When declining S. alterniflora from SVD sites in the northeastern USA were assayed for Fusarium species, an average of 8 % of tissues sampled gave rise to a species of Fusarium of these, 64 % were F. palustre and 16 % were F. incarnatum, a nonpathogenic species. To determine if low densities of F. palustre could explain the lack of dieback symptoms on S. alterniflora from Chongming Island, we assessed the incidence and distribution of Fusarium spp. on S. alterniflora from 12 sites on Chongming Island. On average, 26 % of the stem and root tissues sampled were colonized by a Fusarium species. Of 196 isolates recovered from S. alterniflora, 44 % were F. incarnatum and 41 % were F. palustre. Species determinations were confirmed for a subset of these isolates using a phylogenetic analysis of partial sequences of the translation elongation factor (tef) gene. The observation that Fusarium incidence on S. alterniflora was much greater on Chongming Island than in the USA survey raises the question as to why S. alterniflora on Chongming Island is showing no dieback. Other factors, such as predator release, enhanced nutritional, edaphic and/or other unidentified environmental constraints on Chongming Island may afford S. alterniflora protection from dieback.
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The authors thank Peter Thiel and Michael Ammirata for Technical assistance. This work was funded in part from USDA Hatch Grant H 647.
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1.Department of Plant Pathology and EcologyThe Connecticut Agricultural Experiment StationNew HavenUSA
2.College of Life and Environment ScienceShanghai Normal UniversityShanghaiPeople’s Republic of China
3.Coastal Ecosystems Research Station of Yangtze River Estuary, Ministry of Education Key Laboratory for Biodiversity Science and Ecological Engineering, Institute of Biodiversity ScienceFudan UniversityShanghaiPeople’s Republic of China